This paper provides an overview of French pharmaceutical policy between 1980 and 2003, which was dominated by price control and management of the positive list during the 1980s, with new policy instruments being introduced in the 1990s. The development and diffusion of prescription guidelines has been used to promote more appropriate use of medicines, and some measures aimed at developing the generic market have been implemented. In parallel, attempts have been made to set expenditure caps for physicians' prescriptions and for pharmaceutical companies' turnover. This second option seems to be more durable and effective, although its effectiveness in controlling increases in pharmaceutical expenditure remains limited.
Pharmaceutical regulation is now more transparent than it used to be, and the monitoring of prescriptions is steadily improving. However, some areas remain problematic, for example over-prescription of certain classes of medicines such as antibiotics and probably psycholeptics. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.